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    Ovarian Cancer – What you need to know

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | September 22nd, 2019

    Ovarian Cancer – What you need to know

    In 2001, my dear friend died of ovarian cancer. She was 41 years old. Her cancer had been diagnosed at stage 4 when it had already spread. Eighteen years later, we still do not have a screening test for ovarian cancer. We have the pap smear for cervical cancer, the mammogram for breast cancer, and the colonoscopy for colon cancer. We do not have a screening test for ovarian cancer; however we have signs and symptoms that should not be ignored.

    September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and here are some facts*:

    • An estimated 1 woman in 78 will develop ovarian in her lifetime.
    • The pap test does not detect ovarian cancer.
    • When ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%.

    What are the early signs and symptoms?*

    • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
    • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
    • Pelvic or abdominal pain
    • Bloating

    If you have had these symptoms for more than 2 weeks and they are not getting better, this requires a conversation with your doctor. Please click here for the Dr. Oz’s with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) –  Break the Silence of Ovarian cancer Campaignone sheet to detect early signs.

    How can you reduce your risk of ovarian cancer?*

    • Using birth control pills  – research has shown that women who use oral birth control pills for three years or more have a 30 – 50 % lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.
    • Breastfeeding and pregnancy – giving birth to one or more children, particularly delivering before age 25, and breast feeding, may decrease a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
    • Tubal ligation – having the fallopian tube tied to prevent pregnancy cancer can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
    • Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) – Although it reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, you should have a hysterectomy only if there is a medical reason to have one.
    • Prophylactic oophorectomy – removal of the ovaries will depend on your history.
    • Healthy diet and exercise – According to the American Cancer Society, eating right, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways to reduce the risk of cancer.

    If you are having your tubes tied or getting a hysterectomy, ask your doctor to remove both tubes entirely – we know that this can further reduce your risk of ovarian cancer. The decision to remove your ovaries will be dependent on your age, your family history, or whether you have tested positive for the genes that increase your risk of ovarian cancer. It is important to have a conversation with your doctor.

    For more information on ovarian cancer, please check out the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition website.

    *The stats and information on signs and symptoms as well as how to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer was from the NOCC’s website.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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